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Sunbed Users Have Highest Vitamin D Levels in Canada: Study

Friday, January 25, 2013
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KELOWNA, BC — November 16, 2010 — Canada’s sun-deprived northerly latitudes mean 90 per cent of Canadians will be vitamin D deficient in the winter. That’s why it’s not surprising to learn regular sunbed users have the highest vitamin D levels of any group in Canada.

According to Canadian research published in the journal Public Health, by Edmonton vitamin D researcher Dr. Gerry Schwalfenberg, regular sunbed users and those who take high-dosage vitamin D supplements, have the highest vitamin D levels in Canada. Those who do not take supplements and who report receiving minimal sun exposure had the lowest vitamin D levels.

“It is called ‘The Sunshine Vitamin’ for a reason,” says Joint Canadian Tanning Association Director Steven Gilroy. “Over 90 per cent of sunbeds in use today mimic UVB and UVA in summer sun, which is why sunbed users make vitamin D as a byproduct of their tanning sessions. Many sunbathe primarily for that reason.”

Vitamin D researchers now recommend target vitamin D levels – measured by blood concentration in a vitamin D blood test – of 100 to 150 nanomoles-per-litre.  *( – a panel of 41 of the world’s leading D researchers).

Here is how Canadian groups measured up in Dr. Schwalfenberg’s study:


Results are in nanomoles-per-liter (nmol/L) vitamin D blood concentration:

Regular tanning bed usage                                           94.74

High-dosage vitamin D supplements                           93.91

Lots of recent sun exposure                                         82.68

Cod liver oil supplement                                             80.97

Milk per day > 2 glasses                                              77.16

Fish servings per week > 1                                          72.87

No tanning bed usage                                                  66.01

No milk consumption                                                  65.28

Minimal sun exposure                                                  63.21

No vitamin D supplement                                           56.54

Chart Source: Dr. Gerry Schwalfenberg et al. Journal of Public Health (2010)

The new paper by Dr. Schwalfenberg – who has no relationship with the Canadian tanning community – is in line with other studies on this topic. A study on vitamin D and tanning published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004 showed regular sunbed users in the United States had 90 per cent higher vitamin D levels as compared with non-tanners.

A single sunbed session can trigger the production of up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D in the skin in a single visit – 200 times what is present in an 8-ounce glass of whole milk.

JCTA’s Gilroy – whose own vitamin D level measured 122 nmol/L at the end of winter earlier this year as a sunbed user and dropped 43 per cent to deficient levels by the end of summer, during which he stopped tanning and followed health authorities’ vitamin D recommendations – points out that professional sunbed centres in Canada teach moderation and sunburn prevention.

November is Vitamin D Awareness Month in Canada.

JCTA is a Canada-wide non-profit association representing professional sunbed centers. JCTA members follow the principles of Smart Tanning and teach Canadians how to maximize the benefits of UV exposure while minimizing the manageable risks of too much or too little UV exposure.

For more information please contact:

Steve Gilroy

JCTA Executive Director

800-915-0367 ext. 101 or 250-863-8765